We got the camper prepped and stuff loaded on Friday morning, including the food we would need for the weekend (I forgot salt/pepper, butter, oil of any kind, and bottled water). We hooked up the trailer, loaded Ashke and hit the road at 1 pm on the nose.
Then we spent twenty minutes sitting in line waiting for the train. The ride out was easy, no traffic, no stress sort of affair. We pulled into the camp ground a little bit before six. I checked us in and got Ashke set up in his stall. Then we set up the truck camper, warmed a can of chili on the stove, and then went back to do a short evening ride to help Ashke set in.
Inside the camper.
Dinner of Champions, right there.
Moon over Ashke
Fort Robinson, NE
The stalls for the horses were really nice, but it was more than a ten minute walk from the camping spot to the stall. That made me really stressed. I woke at 1:19 am when I woke in a panic, worried that he was okay. I finally got up at 6:19, put on clothes, and went out to check. He was fine, but not really eating. I pulled all of the hay out of the bag, since he refused to eat it at Expo as well. I refilled with fresh alfalfa, put some grass on the floor of the stall, and then gave him a solid grain feed with lots of carrots. Hiking back to the camper was fun. It was already close to 70 at nine in the morning, but the forecast had the temp topping out at 85 or so. I cooked a really yummy mix of bacon, potatoes, tomatoes and egg for breakfast burritos, then J and I got ready to ride. We had decided the night before to ride out on the Red Cloud trail.
Kicking ass in the morning
Part of the Fort grounds
Looking west and south, standing at the trailhead for the Red Cloud trail
Windmill at the water trough. There were markers on the map showing the location of water spots.
Bluffs due east of Fort Robinson
Leading up the draw
Getting closer to the top
The road went into the ravine, and then suddenly went straight up. Ashke climbed it, although he had already broke a sweat when we reached the top of the first adjustment in altitude. J had to push her bike up. The climb up that canyon was very similar to the climb from the parking lot to the top of Table Mountain. Once we were on top, it was up and down, some of which J could ride, some of them were too steep and had to be walked.
Just before the steepness
This was the top part of the steep trail. Enlarge to see the footing of sharp rock.
Shooting over J’s head at the view
Part of the view
Looking down the trail. It was a comfortable ride under the trees, without being unbearable.
Pretty nifty gate latch. I would definitely use on my property.
Overlooking the plains from the top of the bluff.
This was pretty much the last moment that J or I felt any happiness on this ride.
It was beautiful country.
Trail marker on the top of the bluff.
J kickingd to go Dow ass on Coyote
So, we really should have just turned around and went back. It’s what the other riders we ran into did, but I seem to be categorically incapable of turning around if the word “loop” is in the title of the title. That and neither of us really wanted to ride back down the trail we had ridden up. The map said there was a way down on the far side of the bluff and by damn, we were going to find it.
There really wasn’t a lot of downhill, until we got to the end of the bluff. By that time, the temps were creeping over 95 and we were all seriously sweaty.
Trail sign says Lover’s Leap Trail
We opted to turn left and follow the Red Cloud Trail
The trail turned to single track
For the record, single track alongside the edge of a fairly significant drop off is a great time to work on your dressage. We worked on inside bend, so that his rib cage was bent away from the drop off and his shoulder/head was in that direction. I used my downhill leg to keep him bent away from the drop and balanced him off the outside (up hill) rein. He was very good about listening. (Better than the last time we were riding single track trails).
We got to the end of the bluff and the trail went down a ravine that looked more like a run off slash than a trail.
There is a point where you make a decision about turning around and going back or going forward, come hell or high water. We had no intention of turning around and going back, since the map showed us that we were so close to being off the bluff and we just wanted to be down on flat ground. The trail was so much more aggressive than the map had shown and getting off the bluff was the easiest path home. We found another trail marker and headed back to the north losing altitude as we went. We found the next cistern on the map empty of water. There was less than an inch in the bottom of the very large metal container. Ashke slurped up what he could, but there was very little for him to try to drink. There was not enough water for J to wet down her shirt, which would have helped with the heat.
At this point, Ashke, J and I were all sweating profusely. The wind had died when we moved behind the bluff and the temps were in the upper nineties. We followed the trail markers until the trail disappeared and then kept moving in the direction indicated on the map until we found the trail again. We were losing altitude steadily and it seemed that we were getting closer and closer to the road we could see. Right up until we hit the barb wire fence. I found a gate but we weren’t able to get it open and at that point we were off the bluff, but we weren’t able to go anywhere but up. And the up was bad. I think we both realized at that point, we were in over our heads and all we could do at that point was get back.
Single track heading down
See the meadow? That was the low point at the back of the bluff. We took a half hour break, ate a little snack and let Ashke graze some since there wasn’t any other water. Then we started our climb back up (Going forward was shorter on the map than going back.)
J doing the uphill in front of me. We had three climbs of this steepness. By the time we were at the bottom of the second one I was completely covered in sweat, unable to breathe, and in tears. I wanted to throw up I was so nauseous. I got back on Ashke and we headed across a meadow. I saw J dropped her bike and head for some shade, so I found a tree to tie up Ashke and went back for her.
I have to admit I never understood why Lytha made her horses stand tied in the woods as a matter of her training. However, the reason became very clear on Saturday. Ashke was not the most patient, but he managed to not hurt himself while I was helping J. We got her out of the sun, stripped off her helmet and pack, then had her lie down until she stopped feeling dizzy and nauseous. We were there about an hour before she felt good enough to try to make our way back to the top of the bluff. From looking at my Equitrack app, we were almost back to the main trail. It looked like less than a quarter mile. That seemed to give J heart. I mounted up and headed uphill. I found the top pretty quick and located a great place to tie up Ashke. Then I went back down the trail to get J’s bike and help her up the hill. At the top of the hill, I gathered up Ashke and we headed back.
Ashke tied to the first tree.
Mounting up after realizing there were ticks all over Ashke’s legs
I hate ticks.
Once we were back on the trail, heading home was steady and mostly downhill. I got off to walk down the really steep climb taking us down off the bluff. We finally got to the cistern that had water and I pulled Ashke’s bridle to let him drink. He swallowed almost sixty times before coming up for air. As much as J didn’t want to, I made her dunk her head in the cistern to help lower her temp. We made out way back to the trailer where we washed off Ashke and then spent 45 minutes picking the ticks off of his legs. Ashke didn’t move a finger while we were working on his legs. I checked all of the areas, including his sheath, and we seemed to get them all off (these are Rocky Mountain Spotted ticks). We checked three times and didn’t find any more. A huge shout out to J for using the tweezers.
See? We were down and just needed to go to the right to reach the other trails.
I’m not sure I’ve ever been on trail that long for less than 10 miles.
After we got back to the trailer, it was covered with boxelder bugs. Thousands of little black and red bugs having sex all over our camper. There aren’t any boxelder trees in the camp ground and no one else had an issue with the infestation. It seemed to be our little issue. They were even inside the camper. They can get everywhere. It was targeted at us. And it was the last straw. Both J and I felt like Red Cloud wanted us gone. (We were enemies in our past. I should have been prepared.) We talked about it briefly, but really once J gets too hot that she begins to slide into heat exhaustion and it takes time for her to come back to normal. And there was supposed to be large thunderstorms on Sunday afternoon. Once we agreed to leave, the bugs left.
We spent time sleeping and hydrating that afternoon, until it got cool enough to cook dinner. I drank a gallon of water, half a gallon of OJ, a couple of sodas and a couple of gatorades. We spent a low key evening and then headed home the next day.
I’m happy to know that Ashke can travel like this without any issues. He ate, drank and traveled very well. He was excited and ready to go when I took him out. He was a little unsettled/hyper on Friday night, but settled very well the next morning. We traveled home the four and a half hours and I don’t think he even shifted from side to side. I did stand on the place where Crazy Horse was knifed, but I didn’t really feel anything. In fact, in comparison with so many other places, it really felt empty to me.
We won’t be back. There are other places where I can take Ashke that I would like better than Fort Robinson.